The 10 things I wish I knew about networking
Networking is a skill I wish I had learnt when I was younger. As I look back on my career, I realised the missed opportunities because I did not prioritise my networking. Now, I realise the real value of my networks.
It is through your networks that you get opportunities to accelerate your career and business. The experience that your networks have with you gives them the confidence to recommend and refer you. It is this recommendation that opens the doors to job opportunities, promotions, and business opportunities.
Your networks offer you so much value and, if you are lucky, you make wonderful friendships.
Networking is an important skill to learn and maintain throughout your career, not just when you are looking for a job. Unfortunately, networking is often misunderstood and undervalued.
What I wish I knew about networking:
1. Invest your time into networking
Building your networks does take time and effort, there is no hiding from this fact. It is important to understand that this is not a quick fix. It is a strategy you should implement throughout your career. The earlier you start, the better.
2. Create a list and grow it
Create a list of people you know well your professional environment including colleagues and customers and people you know well from your personal environment including your sports teams, close friendship circle, volunteer or support groups, school/university friends. This is your initial list of people to network with. You can grow this list over time.
3. Plan ahead
Create a calendar to meet with your networks throughout the year. For those you know in your personal and professional life aim to meet with them 2-3 times a year for meaningful conversations. For your networks to be beneficial to you, you need to invest time in nurturing the relationships.
To amplify your networks, you should remember that your networks are a mutually beneficial ecosystem meaning that you need to benefit them in some way too. It is important to reciprocate the recommendations, referrals, and advice that people offer you.
5. Be consistent
I have realised that it is not something you should do momentarily or sporadically but rather an activity you should prioritise continuously from early on. When you network sporadically or momentarily it is not deemed as mutually beneficial or reciprocal to those you are networking with. It really is for your own benefit and gain.
6. be authentic
Networking works best when you are simply yourself. It is your personal brand and who you are that attracts people to you. It is this that will get you the recommendations and experience the rewards that networking offers. Do not pretend to be anyone but you.
7. Be present and engaged when you network
People will know by your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice if you are present and engaged. Be interesting to them and be interested in what they have to say. A good method to maintain engagement is to always consider how you are making them feel. If you do not present or engage well you can lose networks, not grow them.
8. Use social media to keep in touch
Social media is a great way to stay connected and keep in touch. When you engage on social media regularly you reinforce your expertise further building your reputation as a thought leader and that you are a worthy connection to keep.
9. Be visible
A network has no influence or benefit if they are not visible. If you can meet face to face, do it. Invest your time to get to know each other as people. You never know what you will learn. If you cannot meet face to face use technology or social media to keep in touch. What the pandemic has shown us is that there are many ways to engage that does not involve face to face meetings.
10. Pay it forward
Share your knowledge, offer insight, provide value, and be generous with your time. When you pay it forward you are encouraging others to do the same. By giving back you are giving yourself the gift of kindness.
When networking is done correctly the value to your life and to your career is priceless……Jobs, life changing opportunities, customers, referrals, ideas, and friendship. The benefits are endless.
Hunton Executive can help you plan for your career through our private coaching and online courses.
For help preparing and planning your networking contact Hunton Executive for our Executive Career Consulting and Coaching or sign up to the Executive Career Guidance online course.